Inner Healing and Visualization
(November 1996 – Volume 2, Issue 13)
The true gospel message is that God saves people even though they are yet sinners (Romans 5:1-11). However, He does not simply leave them in their sins, but rather, forgives their sins and imputes to them the righteousness of Christ (Romans 4). By grace He brings them into the family of God and starts the process of transforming them into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28,29).
One of the increasingly popular methods of dealing with problems today is Inner Healing (also known as healing of memories, or healing for damaged emotions) through the use of visualization. Some of the better known practitioners of this methodology have been: Agnes Sanford, Ruth Carter, Dennis & Rita Bennett, and among Protestant non-charismatics, David Seamands. Seamands’ books, Healing for Damaged Emotions and Healing of Memories, are perhaps the standard texts on the subject. These books come highly recommended by Gary Collins, James Dobson and the Narramore Christian Foundation, among others. The books are published by Victor Books (a division of Scripture Press) and have sold over six hundred thousand copies since 1981. Throughout this paper we will examine the teachings and techniques of Inner Healing in the light of Scripture.
THE BELIEFS OF INNER HEALING
There are many surface variations between teachers, but the basic structure of all Inner Healing approaches is a Freudian view of human nature which teaches that all of our problems find their root in our early childhood, and that those early painful experiences have been repressed into our subconscious mind. In addition, at least in Christian circles, a Jesus who loves unconditionally is imagined into our past in order to heal our childhood wounds. The Inner Healing movement among Christians, springs from the view that neither God’s Word nor Christ’s power, as taught in the Bible, is sufficient to meet the needs of people with deeply damaged emotions stemming from childhood. Seamands says, “Early in my pastoral experience, I discovered that I was failing to help two groups of people through the regular ministries of the church. Their problems were not being solved by the preaching of the Word, commitment to Christ, the filling of the Spirit, prayer, or the Sacraments. . . . During this time of discovery, God showed me that the ordinary ways of ministering would never help some problems. And He began to enable me to open up my own heart to personal self-discovery, and to new depths of healing love through my marriage, my children, and intimate friends” (Healing for Damaged Emotions, p7).
How amazing to discover that God has revealed to David Seamands what He never revealed to the Apostle Paul! How utterly unbelievable it is to think that God waited until 1966 to let us know that His Word, prayer and the Holy Spirit were unable to solve many of the real problems in our lives — that we must instead turn to Freud and his disciples for answers. Whenever man takes it upon himself to add his insights to the Word of God, error will be the inevitable result. At the foundation of all heresy is the belief that the Scriptures are insufficient and can be improved upon by the wisdom and/or revelation of man.
Teachings concerning human nature:
Inner Healer’s teach that our problems are caused by sins against us. People are fundamentally victims: hurt, wounded, needy, deprived — that we are all sinners is only of secondary importance. The “heart” is a passive storehouse of repressed hurts, unmet needs and yearnings for love (We should comment at this point that Biblically the “heart” represents the inner person: our intellect, emotions and will). Long forgotten memories and experiences of childhood (even experiences in the womb; Healing of Memories, pp16-19) cause personality and behavioral problems. Such problems call for “healing.” In other words, it is because we are victims that we behave poorly. We sin because we suffer; we do evil because evil has been done to us. The only way that we will be able to stop making poor and destructive choices (i.e. stop reacting sinfully) is to eliminate the pain and suffering of the past (adapted from a seminar by David Powlson).
Teachings concerning Christ:
The Christ of Inner Healing is a loving, nonjudgmental, unconditionally accepting healer, who will heal our wounds and comfort our pains. Biblically, on the other hand, Jesus is the Savior of mankind. He died in our place in order to deliver us from the penalty, power and presence of sin.
THE TECHNIQUES OF INNER HEALING
Exploration of the past —
Our past experiences are explored in an effort to identify feelings of disappointment and rejection that are supposedly causing our problems in the present (even simple things such as accidents, illnesses, or delays may trigger these feelings, see Healing of Memories, pp81-84). Until these wounds are uncovered, no inner healing is possible.
In this diagnostic phase, damaged emotions are first of all identified. Next to be uncovered are the hurts that have caused those damaged emotions. Of course, hurts must have been caused by people; so, eventually the search leads to those who have wounded us. David Powlson gives this helpful diagram:
“Through a process of guided imagination, the all-accepting Jesus is imagined back into the memory of traumatic past events. Intensive prayer is offered for the Holy Spirit to be a mystical reveler of problem areas and then a Healer” (Powlson). Secular Inner Healers would substitute another important figure, in place of Jesus, as the all-accepting healer. For example, a psychology student might imagine Carl Rogers; a history buff might call up Abe Lincoln; a Buddhist would visualize Buddha. The individual playing the part of the healer is not important; after all, this is taking place in our imagination, not in reality. What is important to Inner Healing is that you believe in the healing power of the person whom you are calling back into your past. It matters very little whether this healer is Jesus or Donald Trump, just as long as you have faith in this person. Another diagram by Powlson shows the process:
A NEW ACTOR
(SUCH AS JESUS)
WHO WILL ACCEPT US AS WE ARE
THIS NEW ACTOR
BRINGS TO OUR PAST
THE EXPERIENCE OF HEALING
WE BECOME NEW PEOPLE CAPABLE OF REACTING &
(It is worthy of attention to note how much impact the teachings of Inner Healing have had on the life and ministry of David and Karen Mains of Chapel of the Air. See, in particular, Karen’s book, Lonely No More.)
THE BIBLICAL ALTERNATIVE TO INNER HEALING:
Inner Healing has created a Jesus who will meet the needs that we think must be met by going into our past and healing our wounds. The Jesus of Inner Healing is a nonconfrontational, unconditionally accepting Jesus, who receives us to Himself without regard to our sins. By contrast, the Bible teaches that “The real Jesus (not a fantasy Jesus) meets real people (not inner children of memory) in the present (not the past). He deals with the behavioral and personality problems of people by sanctification” (Powlson).
Inner Healers believe that suffering causes us to behave poorly; the Scriptures, on the other hand, teach that suffering reveals our character (Romans 5:3,4) and is used of God to mature us in Christ (James 1:2-4).
The Biblical process of solving personality and behavioral problems is quite different from the methods of Inner Healing. It begins with God’s Word revealing our hearts (James 1:21-25; Hebrews 4:12). At that point we can then go to the real Christ for grace, mercy and help (Hebrews 4:13-16). Then as the real Holy Spirit ministers in our lives through the Word of God,we will grow in abundant life and godliness (II Peter 1:3) and become adequate for every good work (II Timothy 3:16,17)! The teachings of the Inner Healing movement are sadly out of line with Scripture.